Dear Dr. Karel,
As a person who travels with a very senior cat, 19+ years old, do you have any thoughts if they die “on the road”? I know that the sad moment will come and I’m not really ready. Maybe a contributor has thoughts along these lines. I’m pretty sure that this sad event has happened to others reading this newsletter. —Tom P.
I have recently lost several senior cats, so I empathize and understand your worry. Tabitha, Spalding, and July were veteran campers and I had the privilege of their company for up to 21 years. I did not have to deal with their passing while traveling, however.
Are you a full-time RVer or do you take extended trips with your pet?
Stay up to date with vet visits for elderly pets
It is important to know where your pet is in his health timeline and if there are any other health problems contributing. That means speaking candidly to your vet, who may recommend more frequent exams and tests to stay on top of their health. For instance, a 19-year-old cat is living with failing kidneys. There is no way around it; if they live that long their kidneys start to wear out. They won’t get seriously sick until they have lost 75 percent of their renal function. Even if they are healthy in every other way, the kidneys will fail eventually. Dogs may live with cancer and show no signs until they are suddenly seriously sick. This is why regular vet exams are important.
But the most important thing is how your pet feels, are they eating well, drinking, and alert? How is his/her weight? If your pet is not eating and losing weight, those are big red flags. You know your pet best and it may be time to make some tough decisions.
If your pet is feeling okay, research the available emergency vet clinics in the places you will be staying and have the list with addresses and phone numbers ready. Make sure to bring your kitty’s medical records with you. Here is a piece about finding vet services on the road that may be helpful.
What to do when the time comes
If you are at home, arrange with your vet for end-of-life services. There are also many in-home mobile services that can be less traumatic. If you are planning a long trip and your pet is not doing well and it is clear his time is near, please make the decision to let him go before you leave.
How to deal with it when the time comes? It is so, so difficult. I will give you advice that I learned while working in an oncology referral clinic. Do not let your pet get so sick that the last memory of him is a horrible one. Your vet can help you with this. I have made the mistake of waiting too long and regretting it to this day.
Last difficult decision
The last difficult decision you will need to make is if you want to cremate your pet and, if so, have a memorial box or urn for their ashes. Or do you want to bury him at home? If you want the former, any clinic can have the cremains mailed to you. But if you are on the road and you want to bring her home for burial, it becomes much more difficult and more emotionally painful. This is why I encourage you to not take your pet on the road if he is not doing well.
I know how hard this is. It is important to keep at the front of your mind the wonderful life you have given your pet and the responsibility of helping him pass is a heavy one but one that we are blessed to have. When you do make the decision to let him pass, make plans to celebrate his life. Get out the pictures and videos. Make a toast to his memory. And never forget: Your pet is never gone – he lives in your heart forever.
Here are some resources that may help:
- Coping With the Loss of a Pet
- 7 Self-Care Essentials While Grieving the Death of a Pet
- Coping with the Death of your Pet
If you have ever dealt with the loss of a pet on the road, please leave a comment and tell us about your experience. Thank you.
Ask the Pet Vet
Fido feeling under the weather? Fifi been having some tummy troubles? Worried about ticks? What’s better, wet food or dry food? Wondering how to clip your pet’s nails? Ask veterinarian Dr. Karel Carnohan your questions. Please include a description of your pet’s issue or a question you’re curious about. Upload a photo of your pet if you choose. Dr. Karel will do her best to answer your questions.